Time management is a major issue for most college students.
It was definitely an issue for me! As a self-confessed procrastinator, I basically had to trick myself into completing assignments on time. Below is a list of the five tools I found most useful in managing my time and avoiding procrastination.
Whenever I began to feel overwhelmed by the never-ending barrage of assignments and other responsibilities of college life, I would sit down with a pen and paper and write out all of the things I needed to do. Putting everything down on paper helped me to feel more organized and in control, which allowed me to focus on each task separately, rather than having all of them running through my mind at once.
A planner is truly one of the greatest tools a college student can have at his or her disposal! Each new school year, I always made sure to purchase a planner with enough room to write out my entire day, if I should feel the need to do so. During the busiest times in the semester, I would literally plan out every hour of my day. Although it often made me feel a little silly to pencil in specific times for meals or phone calls, the schedule helped keep me on track and provided a method of self-accountability.
Following my junior year in college, I decided to sign up for some upper-level summer classes. Due to the limited time and quick review of the course material, I decided to stay ahead of the game by reading and studying each chapter before the instructor covered it the next day. By working on the classes a little every day, I found that I did not have quite as much to do the nights before the exams, which lowered my stress level and allowed me to study without cramming. I wish I had used this method more faithfully during all of my college courses. It might have saved me a lot of all-nighters and subsequent crashes following the exams!
One of the most important secrets I discovered for having a productive academic experience and making the best use of my time was to make sure that academics weren’t the only priority in my life. Although this may sound counter-intuitive, it really isn’t. Through roommate matching, shared classes, and on-campus clubs and ministries, I developed very close friendships with some amazing people, many of whom I am still close to today. Did I ever choose hanging out with friends over studying? Of course I did! While I do believe that it is important to have specific times designated for studying and coursework, I realized quickly the importance of actually having a life outside of the books. After all, community is innately sought by our species as a physiological need. Isolating oneself from social experiences is not good for a person’s mental or spiritual well-being. Without the down time provided by nights out with my friends, I probably would have had a mental breakdown due to all of my academic responsibilities (I’m talking about you, Organic Chemistry!). Including time for friends helped me to make the most of the time that I spent studying, because I didn’t feel like I was missing out on life by preparing for exams.
While I’m on the subject of community, I feel that it is important to mention the wonders that can result from having a study partner. Granted, some “study” partners wanted to talk and hang out more than actually get any studying done. However, I eventually had a go-to group of friends and classmates that I would gather with on a regular basis to review the material learned in class and prepare for exams. Having a few different perspectives on the material proved very useful in getting a full understanding of the information. Most importantly, however, each member of the group held one another accountable for completing the assignments and provided encouragement for managing our time wisely.
Each of these five tools proved to be essential when it came to managing my time in college. My “to-do” lists and schedule kept me on track; taking small steps and making time for friends and community kept me sane; and, my study partners helped hold me accountable for using my study time as efficiently as possible. With these five tools at my disposal, I usually found ways to keep procrastination at bay, which helped me to develop better time-management skills and have a successful college experience!